Here are a set of posts to the Poetics List sent by one our contributors, Dubravka Djuric, who lives in Beograd. Also responses by three other contributors to IEPI. I think Dubravka’s comments are central to our ongoing discussion here, so I have compiled them. Dubravka herself will be posting more here soon. For more about Dubravka Djuric, visit her EPC author page. – Charles Bernstein
Date: Thu, 1 Feb 2007
From: Dubravka Djuric
Subject: poets in small cultures and outside gaze
it has been long time since i wrote something for this list. now, i would like to comment the site of green integer. surfing, i came upon it, and was really amazing to see so much poets all around the world, including the former yugoslav poets! which i find really great! i was specially interested in the poets from serbia, i am from serbia, and i was so sad to see that some right wing oriented poets are on the list... and now i think about how in small cultures such as serbia, you cannot have a second scene, because we are all 'one big family', right and left, and every poet who ever wrote experimental poetry is erased, actually could not be establish as a poet of any value, it doesnt fit into the picture of great national poetry, and what you call moderate modernism and postmodernism, or what you call(ed) mainstream poets just that kind of poetry do exist. other kind of poets cannot survive, they are out of sight, out of attention of dominant culture, and of course, they could never be in attention of outside gaze, outside attention. i find it very very sad... i dont know how are in other cultures outside usa.....
Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007
From: mIEKAL aND
This is a fascinating comment & something that I suspected also. It
would be interesting to [have] Douglas Messerli's comments on this. I'm
also hoping you could give a few examples of these new experimental
Serbian poets & any translations that might be available online.
Certainly with the advent of the web, it must be much easier for un
(der)represented to establish a virtual presence, which is at least a
beginning to achieving a bit of recognition. Or if nothing else
propose to one of these monstrous poetry webzines like Jacket or Big
Bridge to put together a collection of the poets you think are
beneath the radar.
& for myself I would be also interested to know if there is a
historical Serbian avant garde of which we in the west know nothing...
Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007
From: Murat Nemet-Nejat
The avant-garde in a country like Serbia, or others places, may work
differently, having other points of reference. Is the avant-garde more a
matter of spirit, rather than associated with a specific style? Is it a
style or an idea?
The virtual space gives us a chance to discuss these points without all of
us being around a coffee house table though that would be even better.
Date: Sat, 3 Feb 2007
From: Dubravka Djuric
thank you murat for this comment, when i read it, it occurred to me the
important question WHO IN ONE LOCAL CONTEXT HAS A POWER TO DEFINE WHAT IS INNOVATIVE AND EXPERIMENTAL. and as far as i remember, many critics here wrote about the poet i mentioned as original and innovative.
the other thing regarding vasko popa that occurred to me is: how one 'small'
culture represents itself for itself, and how it represents itself for other
cultures. then, who is transmitter into other culture, how he or she represents poetry and context of the poet re want to represent, and what is transmitter's poetical/political status in his or her culture, and how poets in that culture will accept the other, the work of the poet who through the translation enters their own cultural, and political and poetic context. what purpose this work will serve in that culture where it is introduced. being connected for the start with radical artistic context, popa was author who was not important at all. few years ago i was kindly invited by the fellow poet to participate in a round table on his work, and for the first time i read him, at least some major works, and what i found, that his poetry is dealing with all metanarratives of socialist former yu[yugoslavian] society... inscribing himself into the canon of great and important national poets.... and he was really important poet in introducing socialist modernism in serbia, after period of socialist realism, but that kind of poetry is not important for me. there is need to construct different canons, here too!
as a long-time translator of u.s. poetry, i started in 1984 translating black
mountain poets, first of all robert duncan and denise leverotv, and when i
discovered in 1988 language poets, i constantly translate this kind of
poetry, and i could now conceptualize it, that i fill the gap in my own
culture, the kind of work i would like to have in my culture and it serve me
to make my own poetical context.
another example. in 1986 working within theoretical/artist community for space investigation i decided to write about modern and postmodern dance. in usa and german library i found many books on isadora duncan, ruth st denis, mary wigman, etc. but at the beginning of 1990s in belgrade used bookshops my husband misko suvakovic and i found the books by maga magazinovic, who was pupil of rudolf laban, and other important dance and theater persons from the beginning of 20 century. and i havent heard of her in my own culture. recently, after i finished a huge work on usa experimental women poets, i start again reading micic, poljanski and few other poets, and understood that i have to search for pound, marinetti, kruchonik, and i have in my own culture the best examples from the same or little later period....
Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007 11:52:32 -0500
From: Douglas Messerli
I just wanted to say that my ongoing PIP (Project for Innovative Poetry)
listing on the Green Integer site is not meant to be a tombstone to some
sort of past notion of poetic achievement, but an ongoing bibliographic
resource with vital younger poets added as they publish new and major poetic
Accordingly, I seek out any suggestions and additions, simply asking for
complete bibliographical material, a photo, and a listing, in the original
language, of the books (with publisher name, city and date). With regard to Dubrvka Djuric's statements, accordingly, the writers she enjoys and would obviously hope to promote do not necessarily need to be "erased" or ignored. Green Integer also seeks out new translations on any interesting figures in any language.
Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007
From: Dubravka Djuric
yes, i am happy to have one book of green integer, i admire douglas messerli's work, we met more than 10 years ago, which was so important for me, and i translated some of his poems, and i wrote about the anthologies: language poetries, and along with silliman's from american tree, it was back in 1988 the first book i managed to get in then socialist yugoslavia, and then started my interest in language poetry and poets... from his introduction in that anthology i learned lot of language poetry and poets, and the 'from other side of century' is one of the most important anthologies of us innovative poetry in my library. and i was so sad when few years ago i heard that sun and moon doesnt exist anymore, and i was happy when i got from messerli first book in my library of these beautiful green integer books...
Date: Fri, 2 Feb 2007
From: Dubravka Djuric
thanks to douglas messerli and mIEKAL end for their comments!
i will try to elaborate what i see as problematic... small cultures usually severely exclude radical poetry, and it is usual that academics and critics construct narratives of national 'radical' poetry from the very moderate modernist/postmodernist and in the worst case of antimodernist poets and their poetry. as one example i will mention the name of one of the most celebrated poets, who in last 16 years won all national prices, who i think recently enters the serbian academy of science, milosav tesic (i think that i saw his name listed). he writes the most regressive poetry in serbia today. his poetry is one of the most important in the construction of new postsocialist serbian sociaty, that is a closed society, fundamentalist and nationalistic in many ways, religious, and ethnic and for sure anti-innovative. if i apply language poetry's materialistic theory of verse, then it is that on the symbolic level the kind of poetry that poets wrote is in some relation to the dominant national project or to, on the contrary, to the oppositional political project. many poets that i find in this list were 'radical' 20 or 30 or 70 years ago, and today, i.e. after 1991, most of them become very conservative.
when i first in 1988 read and translated first texts by language poets (bernstein, silliman, hejinian, watten, etc) i said to myself, these crazy us poets connect politics and ideology with poetry, what it has to do with each other... but after 1991, as a literary critic, thanks to my translations of language poets, i realized that many, most, almost all, urban belgrade poets from 70s became in poetry oppressed with nation, religion, and the shift was obvious: their poetry in 70s and 80s was urban, individualistic, usually inheriting modernist traditions but never was too much experimental, but with postsocialism, they started being involved in (re)construction of national and religious identities, and ideology of closed society so instead of individual 'I', urban landscapes, colloquial urban language, you had 'i' which is actually 'we' (the 'i' is important if she/he belongs to the national or religious community in a fundamental way, and patriarchal 'we'). language became very archaic, they introduced traditional poetic devices, and instead of urban poetry, you could read just and only the rural ones (with rare exceptions).
the other thing is the question what is innovative in a local context. i will start with the quotation of the croatian poet and theoretician from 70s and 80s who wrote long ago, referring to slovene, croatian and serbian literatures at that time. he wrote that understanding of literature in this nations "always involved notion of a political dimension. so this is how the amalgam that identified language with national values was created, also forming a literature that served as an articulation of national self-importance. in this way, the language almost automatically become a national value, just like mythology, political victories and defeats. language could not be entrusted to someone who mutilated it (srecko kosovel), who expressed national defeatism, because readings turned on the national political issue above all else." i quoted this because the most radical avant-garde poets from the beginning of the 20s century like ljubomir micic and his brother branko ve poljanski: complicated case, serbs from croatia, who in zagreb in early 20s established avant-garde magazine zenit, then moved to belgarde -- so they are croatian and serbian avant-garde (For the magazine SEE website of belgrade national library) were never, specially in serbia established as a cultural value. according to that, in the end of 60s and during seventies, in slovenia, croatian and vojvodina (northern part of serbia) begun the radical practices, most of that formations were in some relation with conceptual art, similar international art movements, but at that time just slovenian radical poets were in slovenia established as cultural value, you all know of tomaz salamun, who was one of then. in serbia the most radical poets were even today excluded from the company of poets who are worthy of any mentioning. they would be accepted if they changed their practice start writing prose, or start writing more acceptable kind of poetry
and of course, there were poets who were in 70s established as 'radical' poets, but if i have in mind practice of language poets, their radicalism would be questioned. but there were practices that were radical as language poets at that same time. most of those poets were conceptual artists, but were and still are too radical for the dominant, as you say middlebrow, culture. and in that culture there is NO place for innovative, experimental poetry, in its 'purist' way.
i find on green integer list names of srecko kosevel (mentioned in the quotation above) slovenian avant-garde poet from 20s, died very young, and miroslav krleza (croatia) who lived long and was before first world avant-garde, and between the two world wars was representative of bourgeois high modernism, and from that time he was against avant-garde, and after second world war, he was official playwrite and among the most influential figures in socialist time. vasko popa was the most important serbian poet of socialist modernism.... these figures are today cornerstones, constitutive figures, of national of literature but are not the representatives of radical innovative poetry practices (except srecko kosovel).
in 1923 branko ve poljanski published a book panics under the sun (panika pod suncem). in his introduction poljanski wrote "bogdan popovic will go through needle’s ears before krmeza (coin: krleza who is pig) will understand me,” and his brother micic ended the forward with the words: "our fatherland was the saddest that when we had to be born in there." when i read them today, i realized that nothing changed.
but i think and i hope that it is time for us to see what is and what was experimental poetry in a small national culture ... because it is a critical method that is established in u.s.language poetry.